Anything's Possible! – Website created by Michael Sloane, Alexia's big brother.

 

Composer: Alexia Sloane, 14

 

Title of Mandarin Chinese Song: Mo Li Hua

 

Singer : Nicole Ming Hui Puah

 

Words and English translation :

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Rang wo lai Jiang ni zhai xia

Let me pluck you

 

Song gei ni ren jia

And give you to someone

 

Mo li hua yao mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Bu rang shui ba xin zhai xia

Not letting anyone to win my heart

 

Jiu deng na yi ge ren ai ya

Waiting to be loved by that one person

 

Mo li hua ya mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmine flower

 

Shui dang wo qing ren mo li hua

Who is to be my beloved, jasmin flower

 

Ni shuo wo zhen hao shen me dou hao

You say that everything about me is fine

 

Shui dang wo qing ren

Who is to be my beloved

 

Zuo meng dou hui xiao

Smiling in my dreams

 

Wo wang zhe chuang wai de jie jiao

I look to the street corner outside the window

 

Kan dao xin suan zou lai xing fu zou diao

And I see a heart of sorrows, happiness gone

 

Ni shuo wo zhen hao bi shui dou hao

You say I am so fine, finer than everybody

 

You shi he de ren

If there is someone suitable

 

Yao bang wo jie shao

That you will introduce to me

 

Ru guo wo zhen de na me hao

If I am really so fine

 

Ni wei shen me bu yao

Why don’t you want me?

 

Wei shen me bu yao

Why don’t you want me?

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Mo li hua ya mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmine flower

Alexia Sloane

LET THE WORLD KNOW THE TRUTH

Darkness. Penetrated only by the faintest glimmer of a burning candle as it plaintively flickers, trying to help me.

Cold. Biting into my body, my heart, my soul. There is too much of it to shiver.

A faint smell of something- sadness, decay, loneliness- hangs in the air like cobwebs woven by the ghost of an ancient spider. How has its tapestry survived?

The taste of nothing presses on my tongue.

And the silence. Broken only by the lingering echo of what happened then…

Early evening. I can see people talking and laughing together; I can hear snippets of their conversation, although I am not eavesdropping. Life has taught me better by now:

“REALLY?”

“What happened?”

“Let’s go…”

But I am alone. There is no one to talk to me and I can talk to no one. I arrive at the church where we have arranged to meet and strive to open the door; it groans.

Inside, everything is huge but the pews: the altar with its statue of an angel; the stained glass window showing various biblical scenes; the organ; the distance between the stone floor and ceiling.

Neither of us is religious. Science, philosophy, logic… they are enough. So we are not here to pray. We have chosen to meet here because I do not want to be heard by anyone else, and I know that no one comes here at this time on a week day. Yet I sense a presence, although he is not yet here. Someone IS here, I know it. They do not want to be seen. Why?

I hear the door moan, then I see him approaching. He stops in front of me and smiles. For one precious moment, our eyes meet. He silently falls to the ground. A sound like a dog whining escapes my mouth. Is it a dog whining or is it a wolf howling? Or is it some alien sound that no animal on earth but me is capable of producing? My only friend. Who was so patient so thoughtful who understood me. NO ONE has ever understood me but him. He would listen to my sounds that were meaningless to the rest of the world; he would listen to them and know what I was saying; would watch my expression and understand exactly what I was feeling. But now… What happened? Why?

Then, I see him. Small, thin and peeling off thin rubber gloves. I must have been too intent on my friend to see him. No. Not “him”. IT. For It was the presence. Now, it has shouted. People are coming into the church, crowding around us, swarming like a wake of hungry vultures, staring wide-eyed at the three of us. It is only now that I realise: I have fallen to my knees. My hands are covered in blood and I am holding the knife.

“Go away!” I want to shout. “For Heaven’s sake, leave me alone! LEAVE ME ALONE! It was HIM!” But they will not understand. Now, my thoughts are completely cut off from civilisation.

“Uiu?” I am saying. I cannot even say his name!

The vultures’ screeches sound distant. I hear a requiem in my blurred mind, but in my despair I forget whose it is. It does not matter. I wish it would stop, but it refuses. It hacks into my very core, my essence, everything and I can think of nothing else…

After that, there is nothing but a flash of days, weeks, months… perhaps years or centuries. Time is irrelevant. Tick, tock tick…

The scream of the sirens, the vultures, the handcuffs; and all the while, Julius’ last word to me, before we separated that last time echoing: “Goodbye.”.

Nothing for sometime.

The trial- I remember very little of that. A cold room; colder eyes boring into me. Questions? Unjust assumptions. The discovery of my fingerprints on the knife- of course they were on it! The killer was wearing gloves so as not to be caught!

Nothing again.

Tomorrow.

Now, I am here. Alone again. Rest, understanding, warmth. None are present. Only misconceptions, lies and cold, cold hatred.

No.

It is hopeless.

Tomorrow, I will lie on the bed. The first stage: the final remnants of my expression paralysed and torn away by merciless hands. The second? My body destroyed. The third? My spirit joining him. (I believe in the human soul.) Is it universal? No. I do not believe that.

Do I care? About joining him, yes. About the rest…

I would not kill a friend.

If these pages are found, I beg you: publish them. Let the world know the truth for its own sake.

Tomorrow.

I have already planned my last “words”:

“I confess to a single and terrible crime: innocence.”

Tien Gang looked down at his hands. They were not a typical concert pianist’s hands at all.  They had short, stubby fingers, and were not even very flexible.  It was his feet that were beautiful.  His toes were very long, thin and supple. At school, he had always been nicknamed “Daddylongfeet”. Even now, some of his old friends still teased him by calling him that.

Today his hands were hurting and warm, the joints stiff and inflamed. He had been noticing a little stiffness for the last few days, but had put it down to not enough exercises at the piano. But that couldn’t explain inflamation, could it?

Alarmed, he went to his little music room crowded with scores, books, papers and tuning forks, sat down at the piano and tried some quick scales, arpeggios and glissandos.  But his hands didn’t seem to want to obey him. What had always come as naturally to him as breathing was now a strain. He knew he had to make an apointment to see the doctor quickly.

The receptionist glared at him as he entered the surgery. As usual, he was late for his appointment. But taking in the jet black hair that fell over thick eyebrows and twinkling intelligent almond eyes she didn’t dare ask why. After all, he WAS Mr Gang.

“How can I help?” asked the doctor.

“My hands.” replied the pianist, showing them to him.

The physician frowned.

“Hmmm, I’m afraid to tell you, sir, that you probably have arthritis.”

“I beg your pardon?” Tien’s eyebrows disappeared into his hair, and his brow furrowed. “Arthritis?”

“I’m very sorry sir, but I think that is the case.”

“But I’m a pianist! My hands are my career! Is there no cure?”

“I’m afraid not. But we can give you a cast to wear at night to slow the process down.”

“But it must stop it!”

“Nothing can stop arthritis,” the Doctor said, gravely.

Tien’s mind went as blank as a music sheet waiting to be written on.  Compose yourself, he thought firmly.

“Very well,” he said, trying not to let his voice crack, or go out of tune, as he liked to think of it.  “I’ll take the cast.”

The doctor nodded, and reached for some polystyrene from a drawer.  “Press your hand into this, please, sir. We’ll get the cast to you as soon as possible. Wear it all night every night.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

When the cast arrived,  it was an ugly plastic thing with Velcro to attach it to the hand.  Tien tried every night for two months.  Those two months were pure hell for the pianist.  He couldn’t sleep a wink and that meant he couldn’t concentrate on his piano practice which meant the world to him.  Finally, not being able to bear it a second longer, he decided to think of a solution. He thought day and night for a further week, and finally, it came to him: He would play the piano with his feet.

After all, didn’t some artists paint with their feet? And he remembered very well the Chinese proverb from The Wisdom of Confucius, which he had read and reread almost as often as the famous piano concerto by Grieg, “Heavenly music is interpreted differently by everyone”. Didn’t that mean he could play his music however he wanted, because everyone had different ways of doing so? He tried playing the first movement of The Moonlight Sonata with his feet, putting a chair beneath his legs to keep them up.  He did this every day for as many hours as he could. For the first couple of months, the music was hesitant and slow. But then, one day, the blank sheet of music which had been Tien’s mind ever since he had been told he had arthritis filled with notes, and the instrument seemed to be speaking to him as never before.

Within six more months, Tien Gang was once more on the stage in one of the biggest concert halls in the world. The hall was packed with people, excited to hear him play once more. They didn’t know he was now playing with his feet. That had been kept secret. What would be their reaction, Tien wondered? There was only one way to find out: The pianist cleared his throat and silence fell instantly. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “welcome. Today’s concert will ;com” he smiled to himself, “let us say- different to usual. I will now begin with The Moonlight Sonata by Beithoven. I hope you enjoy it.” He sat down at the piano, put his legs up on the chair, placed his bare feet on the piano and began to play what he had been working on since he had decided to play with his feet. The audience looked at the pianist in astonishment. What was going on? But the music was too beautiful to think about this. When the piece was over, tumultuous aplause filled the hall and Tien Gang received the most apreciative standing ovation he had ever experienced. The pianist stood up and bowed. When the noise had died down, he explained everything to the audience. From then on, Tien Gang continued with his career, and went on to become the best-loved pianist of the day.

 

Note: In China, the surname is always said first. I chose the name Tien Gang because in Mandarin, the word Gang Tien means piano.

Poem – Synaesthesia

Synaesthesia

My senses are like five petals on a curious flower,

Or five voices on a silken string:

They merge and work in harmony,

Paint a reflection of the world.

Yet if I look in closer,

Inwards, inside myself,

I see that each is clearer than clarity,

That none are shrouded by the rest.

I look at the sun

As he sinks down

In an arc below sky

And touches the sea then, he falls further down

To lie asleep in her heart.

As I do,

Blue and orange, scarlet, gold

Settle in the evening sky

Like birds, they come to rest.

And as I watch the colours,

Each has a note, a tone, a voice

Which form a chord no human could notate.

I see the colours,

Hear the chord

And a scent wafts down to me

More secret than a shadow,

A time before the past,

A vision of beyond the future.

As I see the colours,

Hear the chord

Smell the scent,

A leaf of velvet,

A tightly woven web of gossamer

Comes to rest around me.

As I see the colours,

Hear the chord,

Smell the scent

And feel the leaf-like web of velvet gossamer,

A taste of fire,

Of beauty,

Of eternity,

Of softest coarseness

And of dreams

Spreads softly through my inner self.

Now, the moon rises from the sea

And takes her place upon the sky.

Red and White

Red and White

 

The battlefield lies open

Its mouth a hoard of lies.

And now the men come riding

Terror is the horses’ eyes.

 

The heavens thunder their lament,

The flowers, they retreat.

But still the hooves, they pound

And beat and beat and beat.

 

The clatter of a merciless gun

Tears horse and man apart.

And now not even prophets hear

The beating of a heart.

 

A child observes from far,

His eyes are filled with awe.

And then he murmurs to the field,

“What is the purpose of war?”

 

“You will never understand,”

The emptiness replies.

“But don’t worry: your heart beats

So you just close your eyes.”

 

See, people of the world,

How war can kill the light?

So save the children, save yourself

And instead of red, wear white.

Alexia is once again a finalist this year. She won this competition twice in the past. 🙂

Title: Louis

Ever since we moved into that house, I heard strange noises very late at night.  They were so faint and indistinct that for several weeks, I thought I was dreaming.  Tap tap tap tap tap tap click.  A noise that reminded me of the noise the measuring machine makes at the hospital.  More clicks and tap; the measuring machine again.  I’d had enough.  “Must be the wind rattling in the roof,” I told myself firmly.  And yet, I took up a torch and followed the sound.  Down the stairs to the ground floor and then down again to the basement.  As soon as I put my foot on the first step, the noise stopped.  Silence.  I continued down.  A scuffle.  Then silence again.  I entered the basement.  Darkness, cracked only by a sliver of moonlight that winked through the tiny window.
The basement was small and we only really used it for storage.  Mainly for books and papers.  And we rarely went there.  Why should we? It was nothing special.  The walls were lined with shelves tightly packed with books.  There were more in stacks on the floor.  I don’t quite know who or what I was expecting.  My mother with her sewing machine? My father doing some sort of DIY? There was no one there.  I was just about to turn and go back up to my bedroom, putting it all down to the wind or some sort of illusion when the tallest pile of books came tumbling down.  And sitting in the middle of all the books was a child.  He was about my age, although small.  He had thick black hair, longer than you’d expect a boy to have.  He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and although his eyes were open, I knew at once that he couldn’t see me.  On his lap, there lay an amazing machine: no bigger than an average-sized modern mobile phone, it was golden metal with three buttons or keys arranged in a row on each short side of the rectangle.  Another lay slightly separate from the three, again on each side, and in the middle, there was a slightly longer button.
“I- I’m so sorry,” he stuttered.  “I didn’t mean to…  you know…” He trailed off.
“Now, listen,” I said, trying to control my amazement, “what’s your name? How did you get in? Where is your family? What are you doing here? And what does that thing DO?” Without thinking, I pointed at his strange device.
“This?” He fingered it lovingly.
“Yeah.”
“It’s a writing instrument.  Haven’t you ever seen anything for writing Braille?”
“Yeah, but not like that.”
“It will be a life saver.”
“So what’s your name?”
“My name? Guess.”
“What?”
“Guess what my name is.”
“But there are MILLIONS of names you could be called!” A mysterious smile passed across his face.
“Go on.”
I thought for a moment.  Then, all of a sudden, I knew.  “Louis,” I said.  “Your name’s Louis.”
“Correct,” he said.
“Why did I know that?”
“Because,” he replied, “you know of Louis Braille.  And so you associate the name Louis with Braille.  A blind boy comes into your house with a Braille device and you automatically think of the name Louis.” There was more to it than that, but I decided to get him to answer a few of my other questions first.
“How did you get in?” I asked again.
“My secret,” he said.
“No, seriously.  All the doors are locked.  It’s physically IMPOSSIBLE.”
“Nothing is impossible,” he grinned.
“Right,” I said.  “In that case, let me ask a slightly different question: WHY did you get in? I mean, why did you come here?”
“I’ve been coming here,” he said, “for a while.” He smiled again.
“But WHY? And how?”
“Why? because I knew that I would be safe here to carry out my inventing.  The streets aren’t fit for it.  I chose this house because I could feel as I passed, looking for a place to work, that it was comfortable.  And how? I have my methods.”
“You’re inventing?”
“This,” he said, holding up his device.
“You didn’t invent that.”
“I did,” he said.  “That’s the noise you heard at night.  It was me working.”
“Where are the tools?” I tested.  He spread his hands.
“These are my tools.  And now I’ve finished, I can go and leave you to sleep in peace.” He rose.
“Wait!” I still don’t know why I said what I said after that.  “Keep in touch.”
“Oh, don’t worry.  I will.” One last time, he smiled.  Then, he was gone.  Gone through the door.  I followed him as silently as possible to see how he got out.  But he heard me and turned back.  “You need some sleep,” he whispered.  “Go back to bed, Celia.” And I did.
When I got back to my room, I lay in bed and thought.  How on Earth did he know my name? Had I mentioned it? No.  And then I knew that I had recognised him.  He had disclosed his identity plainly, and I hadn’t even understood at the time! Of course! Louis.  I had just been speaking to a boy my age who was one of history’s most important figures: Louis Braille.

Thou Art a Witch

Thou Art a Witch

By Alexia Sloane (aged 13)

 

1644. A deep midnight.  The moon is full and the sky is painted a beautiful black, dark, calming and strange.  The landscape above me is dotted with thousands upon thousands of stars, each one appearing from where I kneel to be no bigger than the pupil of a child perfectly carved in silver and gold.  They watch me; protect me? What from?

Most of the human world lies asleep, dreaming.  But the wood is alive, awake, aware.  I hear the call of owls from above me as they fly through the night air, the whispering whistle of the wind in the willow trees and the everlasting splashing and lapping of the stream as it murmurs to itself.  Such is the music of the night.  Such is my dream.  Yet I know that there is more life around me than at present.  For sometimes I see mice, rabbits, sometimes even a deer skimming lightly past me.  They are not afraid of me.  Some even stop and allow me to touch them with the tips of my fingers.  They know that I will not hurt them.

I have made a silent fire and am quietly singing my ritual songs alone, for I like to practice at other times than Sabbaths.  I am solitary by nature and prefer this to large gatherings.

I love it here at this time, when I am completely alone but for the animals, the trees and the night.  It reminds me of a time I have never and perhaps will never experience.  A day before time began; a shadow of the past; a memory of tomorrow; an echo of the future.  Here time is meaningless, irrelevant.  I like that.

It is at times like these that I begin to forget that I must, at all costs, be careful; that if I am found here….  And it is as I am thinking these very words that I hear the breaking of twigs, the snapping of branches and the scuttle of terrified animals running to hide.  Now, he is in front of me.

“Maya!” he says urgently.

“Shhh!” I hiss.  “What art thou doing here? Be silent! If we are found”

“Thou hast been betrayed, Maya,” he replies.  “Thou must either run for safety or gather together all thy powers in defence!”

“How dost thou know?” I breathe.

“The village is being searched by Matthew Hopkins and his men.  They are asking every member of every household for thee.”

“Thou hast kept thy promise?”

“Of course.”

“Dost thou know who could have betrayed me?”

“No.  But at present, that does not matter.  I mean to say, of course it matters, but Maya, thou must not think about these things now! Think rather of fleeing! I can come, if thou preferrest.  So as not to be separated and also for the sake of safety.”

For a moment, I remain motionless, thinking fast.  If we try and escape, we will be found in the end.  Matthew Hopkins will allow none of us to survive unless I do something. “No,” I reply at last.  “I will let them have me.”

“Thou canst not do such a thing! It would be suicide!”

“Lyonell,” I say patiently.  “Dost thou not know me better by now? I do not mean I will allow them to kill me! Thou wilt see.”

“But thou wilt be executed at first light tomorrow! As soon as the lark has risen with the sun, Hopkins says you will die!”

“No,” I reply simply.

“Besides, I have not been watched as I have a right to be.  Or, for that matter, searched for the devil’s mark.”

“People have reported seeing thee in the woods; seeing thy fire, hearing thy songs.  Hopkins considers that to be enough.”

“But every person accused of witchcraft has a right to be searched and watched! Why should I be the exception?”

“I know, Maya.  But that is what he has said.”

“They will not have me,” I say firmly.

“Dost thou promise?”

“Yes.  Let us return to the village together.”

I put out my fire and rise.  We walk back, side by side.  I see the worry, the sadness, the desperation in his eyes.

“Prithee,” I say quietly.  “Do not worry.  I will not be harmed.  Dost thou not trust my word?

My art?” Silently, he nods, yet that sombre expression still remains.  Although he has had an

element of sadness about him since I met him for the first time, I have never seen him like this before.

We have known each other for about four years.  He was new to the village, for his parents had come to live there for a reason I have never discovered.  Every time I asked him, he would always wave away the question, or smile and change the subject of our conversation.  What I do know about his family is that they are very rich, but why they live here instead of a city, I cannot guess.

I remember seeing him from the garden.  He was standing in his own garden, watching me with an expression which I was not quite able to identify.  Was it sadness? Thoughtfulness? Quiet interest? Or a mixture of them all? Well, he was watching me, that was all I knew for certain.  From the moment our eyes met that first time, we were friends, even though it was not until a few weeks later that we spoke, whilst walking in the fields one evening.

“Thy name?” He asked.  I could tell that he was not simply being polite.  Genuine interest was in his eyes.

“Maya Piper,” I replied.  “What is thine?”

“Lyonell Scrivener,” he replied.  Then, he said something that truly frightened me at the time: “I heard thy song.” Quickly, he paused to glance around, supposedly checking to see that no one else was around who could hear us.  “Thou art a witch.”

Thou art a witch, I thought. What would I have done if I had known that I would hear that later from someone who wanted me dead? “Thou must promise me to tell no one,” I gasped.  “How couldst thou know? I was in the woods at night, where nobody goes!”

“I promise,” he said, looking deep into my eyes.  “But I know it for I was walking,” he said.

“In the woods?”

“Yes.”

“At night?”

“Indeed.  I love the quiet of the place at that time.  I heard thy song and followed the sound.  So that thou wouldst not see me looking, I hid myself behind a tree a little way off.  I saw thy fire.  I admire thy voice.”

“I thank thee,” I said.

“Was the melody your own?”

I hesitated. “Yes.”

He said nothing for a moment.  Then, he smiled.  “Wouldst thou show me further supplements of thy arts?”

Once more, I hesitated, this time for much longer.  A near stranger asking to see my arts? But I had seen how earnest his eyes were when he had promised to tell no one.  “Very well,” I said.

“Dost thou go every night?”

“Most nights.  Thou canst come and watch at any time as long as thou art alone.” I do not know why, but I then let out a rush of words that no young witch-girl should ever have done: “I will show thee how fire can spring from my fingers and form letters, characters and symbols of my language. I will teach thee my language, if thou desirest, so that not a soul but my friends, my fellow witches, will understand us; I will also teach thee the names of the stars and the phases of the moon, if thou dost not know them yet.  No more will the shadows be dark and secret to thee, for I will unveil them and make them clear in thy eyes.  I cannot give you witchcraft but I can put some of my knowledge into your heart.” I paused to take a breath.  “Wouldst thou like that? I am sorry, for I worship the moon, not God.  Thou art a Christian, surely?”

He smiled. “No,” he said simply.  “I am not.  In no way do I disapprove of thy practices.  In truth, I am fascinated.”

It was from there that Lyonell Scrivener became one of my few close friends.  I have shown him everything that I promised, and he has kept his promise to keep it all a secret in return.

Now, we are back at the village.  Lyonell glances at me once more.

“Lyonell,” I say patiently, “he will not harm me.”

“Very well,” he sighs.  “But I am still reluctant to…”

“It will be safer for thee if we go our separate ways now,” I say.  “If thou art caught trying to protect me…” He sighs again.

“Very well,” he says once more.  “Take this.” He hands me a rose the colour of fire, which he takes from the wild bush beside him.  The colour of fire, the colour of blood; the colour of the sky before a storm; the colour of fury.  Our eyes meet again.  I do not have to thank him.  He sees it on my face.

We separate.

I expected the village to be in tumult, but in truth, everyone appears to have gone back to their beds.  When I arrive at my cottage, however, I find Matthew Hopkins and his men inside waiting for me.  He is tall, thin and wearing a cloak so that I cannot see his face.  His men are also in cloaks.  My presence must make them feel cold, for it is quite warm outside.

“Miss Piper,” says Mr Hopkins.  “As I am sure thou knowest, I am working for king and country: I am trying to rid us of witchcraft.  Unfortunately, various accusations have been brought to my attention, all of them by different people, not all of whom are acquainted with one another.  Thou hast been seen in the woods at night with fire, singing songs that do not appear Christian in any way.  Come to that, thou hast never been seen at church.” He pauses.  “Thou art a witch, Miss Piper.  Thou wilt be executed tomorrow at first light.”

“Wilt thou not watch me?” I ask, feigning not to know the answer.

“No.  These accusations are enough.”

“Sir,” I say, “pardon me for my insolence, but allow me to ask you a question: I believe you have a daughter, do you not? Is her name not Elizabeth?” I knew this because it so happened that he actually had his home in the next village even though he was notorious among women all over East Anglia. And everyone knew that he was worried about his daughter and that was why he had returned home now.

“Yes.”

“Well then, sir: what wouldst thou do if she were accused of witchcraft?”

“Elizabeth is not a witch!” he exclaimed, completely shocked.

“No, no, sir.  Of course not.  But what wouldst thou do if she were accused of being one?” Under his breath he muttered, “Have her accusers hanged.” But I do not believe he intended me to hear, for he said it as if to himself.

“Is she ill? I have not seen her recently.”

“Yes.”

“Prithee, give her my best wishes.”

“Miss Piper,” Hopkins said coldly, “art thou happy that thou wilt soon be dead? For, from the way you are speaking that is the way it appears.” I shook my head.  “Then, be silent and repentant till tomorrow.” With that, he and his men turned and walked away from the cottage.

My mother bursts forward, having been sitting watching this interchange in understandable desperation. “Maya!” she cried.  “What did I tell thee? That going to the woods is dangerous! That thou wouldst be found there one day, accused of witchcraft and executed.”

“But I will not be executed,” I said.

“Thou wilt! Didst thou not hear them?”

“I heard them, mother.  But I have decided what I am going to do.” And I tell her everything that I have planned.

“It is a risk,” she cries when I have finished.  “A great risk.  You risk your life and mine.  I am very fortunate that I am currently not in danger, for no one has accused me of anything.”

“Mother,” I say earnestly, “I promise it will work.  When I have done that, they will not dare to touch either of us.”

It is the following morning.  In fact, not morning yet, for the sun has not yet risen. Crowds have gathered to watch my supposed death; the whole village appears to be here.  I see Lyonell standing amongst them, yet slightly apart from the rest.  I catch his eye; he still seems distraught, more so even than yesterday.  Mother is also there, of course, but I do not believe she notices me looking at Lyonell.  He is a secret, as I am to his family: Mother would not let me speak to boys; she would worry that I would do exactly what I have done: show them my arts, which would, of course, have drastic consequences.  And he has not mentioned me to anyone because of his promise.

The stones.  I am laden with them: impossibly heavy, for I can barely walk to the river, though, of course, they are dragging me.  Harsher than the ice as it bites into the soul in winter.  Blacker and more evil than the crime of which I am accused.  Is it not ironic? Should THEY not be drowned for murder? But no.  For they are working for “king and country”.  They should be rewarded! King and country indeed! I happen to know that before Matthew Hopkins’ daughter, Elizabeth, fell ill a few months ago, he was never this harsh.  He would, at the very least, have followed the LAW! But when she developed the fever – he blamed it on the poor old lady who was his neighbour.  I have not the faintest notion why.  But since then, he has believed that any woman who is either solitary, does not go to church or is “intelligent” is evil.  Again, what connection that has with the old lady and Lizzy’s fever, I do not know.  All I know is that I can, through the use of these criteria, be categorised as “evil”.  For I have been caught reading.  And writing.  And that, for a woman, not to mention a girl, is impossible, is it not? Since I have mentioned this, it may be an appropriate time to tell you how it is that I am able to read and write:

At a young age, I developed a fascination for music.  I therefore began to compose it although, of course, I could not write it down.  But when I met Lyonell, he taught me to read and write not only music, but words also.

I am at the river bank.  Now, I must concentrate.  I must think with the greatest of care about the task ahead of me and smooth out any creases, any lingering justifiable shadows of suspicion, that anyone may take from what I am about to do.  I have thought all night, but this is the crucial point at which my plan will either prosper or fail.  I block out the chatter of the crowd, the weight and coarseness of the stones, the iron grip on my wrists.  Finally, just as I decide that all will be well, the signal is given.  As the sun rises above the horizon, it paints the sky a multitude of shades of pinks, purples, reds and gold as dawn spreads over the upper world and the lark begins to sing. Then I am lifted off my feet by merciless hands and thrown down – down – down….  I make a show of waving my arms, my legs and when I finally hit the water, I make myself go under, carefully making it seem as uncontrollable as possible.  For a moment, the dark, ice cold mouth of the river opens to greet me and closes over my head.  After a few seconds though, I rise, having got rid of the stones.  First up to the surface. I stand on it, readying myself.  The crowd gasp.  Then my feet leave the water and I am flying.  Like a Phoenix, a fire bird, I move above the clouds and look down on the earth, already reduced to the size of a pin head.  I fly lower, passing just above the heads of the crowd as they gaze at me in wonderment.  Once more, I see Lyonell, a look of total delight on his face; Mother watches me too and she also looks relieved; Matthew Hopkins, on the other hand, is very pale; in fact, his face is completely white; is it with fear of me or embarrassment at my slipping through his fingers in front of the whole village? Well, if that does not change to gratitude by this evening, I will either have failed or the Witch Finder General is incapable of love.

“Get her down!” I hear the shouts of men from the ground.  “Someone shoot her!” But no one dares and I am soon coming to the house of Matthew Hopkins.

As I expected, the window of Elizabeth’s room is open.  I slip through and drop silently just beside her bed.  She is asleep, her back turned to me.  Her breathing is weak and wheezing. “Elizabeth? Lizzy?” I whisper.  She opens her eyes and turns towards me, first in confusion, then in fear.

“What art thou doing here, Maya?” she asks with difficulty, her voice high and quavering.  “Thou should be dead after thy trial!”

“My arts are not those of darkness,” I reply.  “I escaped.  I am here to help you.”

“To help me? But the doctors do not know what to do! They say I will be dead before the month is out.”

“The doctors do not know the secrets of healing herbs,” I say, taking a small glass bottle from my gown.

“Thou art here to poison me!”

“Lizzy, I told thee.  I am here to cure thee.  Prithee, trust me.  This bottle contains lavender to help you rest, camomile to calm the fever, rosemary to….”

“Very well,” she sighs.  “I do not suppose it truly matters if thou killest me now.”

“It will not kill thee! I promise it will cure thee! Listen.  I will take a drop now to prove to thee that there is no trace of poison here.” I remove the lid and take a small drop, for this mixture is not dangerous.  When I have swallowed, she nods.  I pour seven drops into her dry mouth.  “There.  Now sleep.  When thou wakest, the fever will be gone.” She turns over again and almost instantly, her eyes close once more.

I stand and watch her for a few moments, thinking how I may just have earned myself a new friend; how Lizzy could save me from her father.  Then, I turn back towards the window and return home.

“Well, Maya,” Mother says as I come in, “thou hast earned the whole village’s admiration.

Many of them have congratulated me on account of thy talents.  So, how was thy exchange with Elizabeth Hopkins?”

“Successful, I believe,” I reply.  “I believe we are safe now.”

Now, it is night time.  I am in the woods, sitting on the ground of the clearing in the centre, just as I was last night.  Last night.  It seems like forever ago!

The wind is rustling the leaves again; eerie calm hangs in the air like the celestial beings that rest upon it.  It is similar to the feeling one experiences before a storm, yet nothing shows any signs of preparing to unveil anger.  The sun is gently dipping in a majestic curve; the moon rises gracefully to meet it; for a moment, they are perfectly in line with each other: a circle of power wearing a halo of fire.  And it is at that precise moment that Lyonell walks into the clearing and sits beside me.

“Maya?”

“Yes?”

“That was wonderful.”

“I thank thee.”

“I thought thy flight was beautiful.”

“Really?”

“Yes.” Silence falls between us.  Then, he says, “I never truly believed it until today.”

“What didst thou not truly believe till today?”

“I simply thought that thou wert different.  I never truly believed…”

“What?”

“That thou art a witch.”

“But thou wast the one who said I was a witch that night in the fields.”

“But I was being childish.  I did not mean it.”

“Dost thou not like that?”

“I do not mind in the slightest.  Before I met thee, I would never have known…” He stopped.

“Known what?”

“Nothing.”

“Tell me.”

He looked uncomfortable for a short while. Then, shaking his head, he began to chant in a strange language, one that I could not recognise, much less understand.  He stopped.  He waited. Then, the fire I had made began to churn and move round and round in spirals, the flames leapt high into the air and in a flurry of fiery feathers, a bird emerged from them and began to fly above us.  It was a Phoenix.  It began to sing a magical song.  It was then that I realised:

“Lyonell,” I said quietly.  He smiled sadly, yet there were hints of mischief there.  “Thou art a witch too.”

Pictures of Alexia interviewing Stephen Hawking in April 2014 at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge. An absolutely incredible and very humbling experience. At the end of the interview, Alexia got to play the prologue of her novella to Professor Hawking via her Braille computer who has a very similar voice to his own computer! The video of her interview, together with the interview she also did with the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, will follow shortly.

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This is a piece I recently composed for a composition competition entitled ‘Jessica Foxley‘.

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Lines

*This was recently written for a competition*

The world is composed of very thin lines: that between sleeping and waking, knowledge and ignorance and imagination and “reality”.  Humans never cross the latter two lines.  They know nothing.  They live in their world and assume that everything they see is all there is.  They assume that abstract artists invent what they paint.  That actors are acting characters who do not exist.  That authors invent their characters.  In fact, the artists, actors and authors assume so themselves.  But if humans crossed those thin lines, pushed aside that curtain of finest silk between their world and ours, they would know the truth.  But they do not.  They refuse to do so, firm in the belief that imagination is not reality.  But I have a story to tell.  After having heard it, I hope that the world of humans will know better.

I do not know my father’s name.  I have no mother.  I was born of a man.  All humans are thinking that that is impossible.  I am the proof that it is not.  I grew from a microscopic piece of nothing to what I am today.  And yet, I was not fed or watered in the same way as a human would be.  I was nurtured.  That is all.  Once again, humans are thinking that this is fiction.  It is not.  I have a story to tell.  After having heard it, I hope that the world of humans will know better.

I live beyond that curtain, on the other side of those lines which humans refuse to cross.  But the difference between humans and me is that I accept both worlds and humans do not.  I often cross into the other side.  I come when I am called.  I am called very often, but never in earnest.  I fight.  I fight to show myself, to make the humans accept that I exist.  They refuse.  But I have a story to tell.  After having heard it, I hope that the world of humans will know better.

I have no appearance.  I am as I am asked to be.  But I am not enslaved.  I am free from the shadow of doubt.  I know.  My personality, voice and acquaintances have been chosen for me.  But I am not enslaved.  I am free from the shadow of doubt.  I know.  My father knows nothing.  That is because he is a human.  Humans know nothing.  They will continue knowing nothing until they push aside the curtain.  Until they cross the lines.  I will now tell you my father’s field of work: he is an author.  I was born from his imagination, from a microscopic piece of nothing to what I am today.  But he does not believe that I am real.  He believes that I am an invention.  Nothing more.  And because of his ignorance, because of the ignorance of the human race, I will not tell you my story.  Not until you push aside the curtain.  Until you cross the lines.

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